Jean-Claude van Itallie’s translation of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard was commissioned by the New York Shakespeare Festival (Joseph Papp, artistic director).

It opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center, New York City on February 17th, 1977, directed by Andrei Serban, scenery and costumes by Santo Loquasto, lighting by Jennifer Tipton, incidental music by Elizabeth Swados. The cast included Raul Julia as Lopakhin, Meryl Streep as Dunyasha, Marybeth Hurt as Anya, Irene Worth as Lyubov Andreyevna, Priscilla Smith as Varya, George Voskovec as Gaev, Michael Cristofer as Trofimov, and William Duff-Griffin as the stationmaster.


"A classic restored to the hands, mind and blood of the creator. … It is a celebration of genius, like the cleaning of a great painting, a fresh exposition of an old philosophy.

"We in the English-speaking world have frequently been accused of disregarding Chekhov’s comedy, and of permitting even his sternly satirical political purpose to get lost in some kind of undertow of romantic sentiment. This Cherry Orchard will have none of that; indeed, it is not only a comedy, it is a comedy played as a tragic farce. And what makes it a tragic farce is the political understanding brought to it by the director and adaptor, Jean- Claude van Itallie, who has taken liberties in the cause of freedom and justice. … But this lyric poem of Russia on the eve of revolution has never been funnier, more tragic or more moving. Not in my experience." Clive Barnes, The New York Times.

"… a new, faithful, very playable and gorgeous translation by Jean- Claude van Itallie." New York Post.

"Jean-Claude van Itallie’s adaptation is splendid, colloquial without being cute, simple, moving, funny." Village Voice.


LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA (agitated): Well? What happened? Was there an auction? Say something.

LOPAKHIN (embarrassed, afraid of showing his joy): The auction was over at four... We missed the train. We had to wait until 9:30.

(sighing heavily)

Unh, my head is spinning.

(Gayev comes in. With his right hand he holds his purchases, with his left he wipes away his tears.)

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA: What happened? Quick! Tell us, Leonya.

   (passionately, with tears)

For God's sake!

(Gayev gestures helplessly, not answering her. Crying, he speaks to Firs.)

GAYEV: Here, take these... Anchovies and herrings... I've had nothing to eat all day... Oh, what I've been through.

(The door of the billiard room is open. We hear the sounds of billiard balls clicking and of Yasha's voice.)

YASHA (offstage): Seven and eighteen.

   (Gayev's face changes. He stops crying.)

GAYEV: I'm tired. Firs, come help me change.

(He goes to his room through the ballroom, Firs following.)

SIMEONOV-PISHCHIK: What about the auction? Speak up. What happened?

LYUBOV ANDREYEVNA: Is the cherry orchard sold?



LOPAKHIN: I bought it.

(A pause. Lyubov Andreyevna is overcome. She would fall if she weren't near a chair and table. Varya undoes the ring of keys from her belt, throws the keys on the drawing room floor and goes out.)

I bought it. Yes. Wait, my friends, please. Please wait a moment. Everything is spinning in my head. I can't speak.

      (He laughs.)

All right. We get to the auction. Deriganov is already there. Leonid Andreyevich has only fifteen thousand, and right away Deriganov goes up to thirty thousand plus the mortgage. I see what's happening. I jump in and bid forty thousand. He, forty-five. Me, fifty-five. He goes up by five thousands. I go up by tens. In the end I bid ninety thousand plus the mortgage, and I get it. The cherry orchard is mine! Mine!

   (He bursts out laughing.)

Dear Lord, my God -- the cherry orchard is mine. Tell me I'm drunk, tell me I'm crazy, that I'm dreaming...

   (He reels.)

Don't laugh at me. If my father and grandfather could only rise from their graves and see me now -- me, their ignorant little Yermolay, almost illiterate, their Yermolay who was beaten, who went without shoes in winter. Now that same little Yermolay has just bought the most beautiful estate in the world! I bought the estate where my father and grandfather were slaves, where they weren't even allowed into the kitchen. I must be dreaming, asleep, imagining. This only seems like its happening. It can't be true!

(He picks up the keys, speaks with a little childlike smile.)

She's thrown down the keys to show she's not mistress here any more.

   (He jingles the keys.)

So it must be true.

   (We hear the musicians tuning their instruments.)

Hey, musicians, play. I want to hear you. Come, come everyone, see how Yermolay Lopakhin is going to take an ax to the cherry orchard -- how the trees are going to fall! We're going to build new houses, and our grandchildren and all our descendants are going to know a new life here. Music! Play!


Published: Chekhov, the Major Plays, van Itallie, Applause Books, NYC.Acting version: Dramatists Play Service.